One question I get asked the most is, “How did you and your ex raise your daughter together?”
First, let me preface this blog with this comment – there are children that are raised by single parents who turn out just fine. There are parents that decide to adopt or go through artificial insemination and choose to have a child as a single parent. Children are resilient and as long as you show them love, structure, discipline, and teach them well, they will grow up just fine. This blog is meant for those parents that have gone through divorce and find it difficult to co-parent.
With that being said, it is never easy to co-parent. When my ex and I decided to divorce, we made it perfectly clear to each other that our daughter was our first priority. That may be the intention of parents when they first separate or decide to fulfill the divorce. There may be joint or shared custody. The mother may decide she wants the kids and the dad can have them on the weekend or vice versa.
When you divorce, there must be the understanding that things won’t be the same between the two of you. You can make it hard or as easy as you’d like. There are many avenues to divorce and with them may come feelings of hatred, anger, bitterness, disgust, feelings of being let down. There will be pain. But when divorcing with children, civility must remain and compromise is essential to maintaining civility.
When Lisa and I divorced, we talked over how we would work it out. Yes, we called on family to help at times. Yes, we both started dating (other people) again. Yes, we both had jobs and had to work. But we both did whatever we could to make sure we saw eye-to-eye on how our daughter was raised. If things occurred and she was unsure of, she called me and we talked about it. If I wanted to make a decision that concerned my daughter, I called her to discuss it. And if we disagreed, we found a way to compromise, to reach an agreement, even if that meant putting the conversation on hold until the next day or two. Neither of us ever decided to make a decision without the other’s involvement because our daughter needed to know that we were still very much her parents and would be involved in anything she did and it would be our final say – as a team.
“She doesn’t agree to anything I say,” I’ve heard.
“He’s a complete asshole and never hears anything I tell him,” I’ve heard as well.
Divorce is never easy, but there were TWO people involved in bringing the child or children into the world. And as that child or children’s parents, it’s very much the same importance to be equally involved in their lives. You have to find a way to compromise. You have to put the pain and hurt aside and do what’s in the best interest of the children and NOT make decisions to spite one another because that is only going to hurt them (the children) in the long run. You are adults. You are parents. And as adults and parents, you must act like them.
The hardest part of divorce is spite. It may have been amicable. It may have been messy. He cheated. She cheated. He’s a liar. She’s too busy. His job consumes him.
Whatever happened in your relationship to cause the divorce is irrelevant when it comes to raising your kids. One of my friends reached out a little over a month ago. Here’s a piece of the conversation:
“Gosh, I wish I had what you and Lisa have,” she said.
“You can,” I replied.
“No I can’t.”
“Because he seems lost when that bitch he’s dating is over?”
“Really,” I said. “What does that have to do with you being parents?”
“Because, she’s a part of his life and in his house when our kids are there and I hate it.”
“You didn’t answer my question, so again I ask what does that have anything to do with THE TWO OF YOU raising your children?”
“Well, I guess it doesn’t,” she said.
“Right, because you are mom and he is dad. You are just angry and bitter about the situation. It didn’t work out. Time to move on. Time to heal. But you and he will always be parents of those two little guys. Embrace it. Is she nice to them?”
“Great. As long as she is and I’m quite sure she understands those boys have a mom already. Use it to your advantage. Remember, it takes a village…”
We went back and forth for a while, following that conversation. Three days ago, she messaged me to tell me that she went by the house after work, while the kids were staying with him. She told me the girl he is dating was there and answered. She introduced herself, they spoke, laughed and the lady was adamant to her about just being there to help and how much they love their mommy, etc. She told me that not only did that help her, she was able to find closure and is no longer mad and was actually going out on a date that night. Even if that didn’t happen, she is still the mother to those two little boys and he is still the father and she would have needed to put her anger and her feelings aside to be mom and communicate with him.
I’m perfectly aware that situations don’t always work out. There will be times where you will wish you can hold a friendship and co-parent without any weirdness or past feelings of angst. But that is on the parents to fix. They have to get past that. More importantly, they have to realize that if they have a child or children, their number one responsibility is to give them the best life possible – the same life they would have had if they were still married and still together. It is not the child’s fault that the parents couldn’t work it out. But it is the parents responsibility to make sure that they communicate, compromise and maintain civility. Aside from the obvious, children see how their parents are. And you, as parents own the responsibility of showing children that you make the best of any situation. The benefits are also great as they will never be able to play either of you against each other knowing you still have a strong front and strong level of communication as a co-parenting team.
Remember – it’s their lives now, not just yours. They come first. Not you. Do what’s right. Show them what’s right. And you’ll most definitely bring the kids up right.